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Legislation would give women’s business contracting parity with other programs

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced legislation yesterday to encourage women’s business ownership and give women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) more opportunities to win federal contracts. The Women’s Small Business Procurement Parity Act would provide tools available under other contracting programs to help federal agencies meet the goal of awarding 5 percent of all federal contracts to WOSBs.

“Although women continue to make great strides in our economy, women are still underrepresented as business owners,” Senator Shaheen said. “By providing more opportunities for women-owned small businesses to win federal contracts, we will encourage greater small business ownership by women, which is good for our economy and job creation.”

“This bill will help ensure that women small business owners have the opportunity to do business with the federal government,” Senator Cantwell said. “I applaud Senator Shaheen for her leadership on this important legislation to ensure that women entrepreneurs get a fair shot to grow their businesses and create jobs. It is time for the federal government to send a clear message that it is committed to doing business with women entrepreneurs across America.”

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the most powerful job creators we have,” Senator Gillibrand said. "And the fact is, women are increasingly the new family breadwinner. Women are the primary income earner for a growing share of homes across America. The key to a growing economy, and the key to an American middle class that is built to thrive in the 21st century is women. When we equip more working women with the tools and the opportunities to achieve their best in the economy, and their best for their family, that’s when America’s middle class will thrive again. Without a doubt, if given a fair shot, women will be the ones who ignite our economy and lead America’s middle class revival."

Although women make up more than half of the U.S. population, only about 30 percent of businesses are owned by women in the United States.  Smaller still is that businesses’ contracts awarded through the WOSB program accounted for only 0.19 percent of the $50 billion designated for small businesses in FY2013. The Women’s Small Business Procurement Parity Act would support additional contracting for WOSBs by removing the sole-source authority restriction on the WOSB procurement program to give it parity with other small business federal contracting programs and help meet the 5 percent WOSBs contracting goal that lawmakers  set two decades ago.

"For 25 years, the women's business community has been asking Congress to assist with access to federal contracts,” said Barbara Kasoff, president of Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP). “Implementation of the Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) procurement program in 2011 was the first step, and this legislation will give women business owners greater access to federal contracts by providing an important tool used by contracting officers in other programs. Women business owners are just asking for fairness and access."

The legislation has the support of multiple national women’s business and small business organizations, and a version of the bill has been passed by the House of Representatives.